I love that the church fathers chose to close the year as Christ the King Day. This feast is celebrated on the last Sunday of Pentecost—the weekend before Advent. The picture of Jesus Christ as our King of Kings reigning from heaven helps us move into Advent and the New Year with the hope that the Prophets gave us.
As I light the first candle of Advent on Sunday, my mind will be filled with hope because of what I experienced on the last Sunday of the year. The reading for the day came from Luke 23:35-43:
“The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One. The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself. There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us! But the other criminal rebuked him. Don’t you fear God, he said, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong. Then he said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus answered him, Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
This is a passage you expect to be read during Holy Week, not at the end of the year; nor on Christ the King Sunday. I don’t think I would have thought of this passage in the same way if it weren’t Christ the King Sunday. My head began to swirl with excitement. The gospel passage suddenly began to draw my heart to heights of wonder and praise. I realized that amid all the watching, sneering, mocking, crude behavior, accusations, and insult hurling, Jesus reigned. I realized that this passage showed me how Jesus reigned—even from the cross.
Only one subject actually got it that day. The former thief recognized Jesus’ reign. He alone saw that this was God and that God reigned over a spiritual kingdom. He asked to become part of Jesus’ kingdom and was assured that he would be a part of it that very day. I’ve read this passage hundreds of times and never recognized what the thief saw.
Our great hope this Advent Season is that our hearts can open to hope right now. Jesus not only reigned from the cross but also He now reigns from heaven, seated at the right hand of God, constantly interceding for you and me.
This Advent I want to pray the same prayer as the thief. I want to ask: “Father, help me open my heart, mind and soul this Advent Season and show me how you reign. Cause my eyes to look at your kingdom and realize my place in it.”